When it comes to our to-do lists, many of us prioritize checking off tasks that are easiest to complete or are due first, regardless of importance. The result? Some important tasks never get done. Managers can help employees by having them set aside proactive time for work that is important but not urgent. Ask them to block time on their calendar each week. For these periods to be effective, they must be distraction-free: Shut off email, Slack, and your phone. While it might be tempting to answer a quick request from a client, this sense of being “always on” negatively affects productivity. Managers might even consider blocking off this time on employees’ calendars themselves. Survey your team to gauge interest, or try a six-week experiment to learn how much time you should block off, or which days work best. Sure, employees could do this for themselves, but having a manager make clear that proactive time is important sets the expectation for focused work and prevents critical projects from falling through the cracks.

This tip is adapted from “Getting Your Team to Do More Than Meet Deadlines,” by Charlotte Blank, et al.

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